The area under coca cultivation in the Andean region, which produces almost all of the world’s cocaine, slumped to a 14-year low last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) announced today.
Led by a dramatic fall in Colombia, where since 2000 the area under coca cultivation has plunged by 47 per cent, the total area in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru fell 20 per cent to 153,800 hectares last year.
Vincent McClean, the New York representative of the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told reporters today that more effective law enforcement and the promotion of alternative forms of livelihood for coca farmers were largely responsible for the decline.
Mr. McClean said “a sustained elimination campaign” by the Colombian Government, with the support of the United States, had led to the spraying of large areas previously used for coca cultivation. Colombia is estimated to produce three-quarters of the world’s cocaine supply.
Many farmers had voluntarily eradicated their coca fields and planted alternative crops, he said.
The area under cultivation in Peru also fell in 2003, sliding 5 per cent. But Mr. McClean expressed concern about an overall rise in the area under cultivation in Bolivia. The rise is only estimated because this is the first time that national figures have been available. Some coca production is legal in Bolivia if it has traditional uses, such as in medical preparations or coca tea.
Mr. McClean also voiced concern about the environmental damage caused by coca production. Five hectares of forested land must be cleared to grow one hectare of coca, for example. Many chemicals used in cocaine production also pollute the soil and nearby rivers.
UNODC spends $71 million on projects in the three Andean nations, focused mainly on schemes to encourage alternative crops for farmers.